Sunday, October 30, 2011

"In Front of", "In the Front of", or "At the Front of"?

When using English, especially in conversation, English learners usually make mistakes when they describe places. This is because there are different "rules" in their native language and when they use English, the "rules" are still applied by mistake.

In talking about specific locations, English learners often confuse the use of "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of". Probably, it is because those three phrases have one meaning in their native language. For example, "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of" in the Indonesian language have the same meaning, that is "di depan". There will be a confusion in saying "di depan" in English if we don't know the correct use of "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of".

To avoid such mistakes, let's learn how to use "in front of", "in the front of", and "at the front of" correctly. It can also help us in TOEIC test, especially in the Listening Section" Analying Pictures, in which we often have to identify the specific location of things in a picture.

Common Mistakes in using "in front of"

The most common mistakes in using "in front of" happens when people talk about things which are on opposite sides of a road, street, river, room, etc. "Opposite" or "facing" should be used instead. Look at the following picture.
In Indonesia, when people want to say "Dia tinggal didepan rumah saya" or "Rumahnya berada di depan rumah saya", they usually say:
  • He lives in front of my house.
  • His house is in front of mine.
The above sentences are incorrect. Remember, in front of is not used to talk about things which are on opposite sides of a road, street, river, room, etc. Instead, we should use opposite or facing.

These are the correct sentences to describe the picture:
  • He lives opposite my house.
  • His house is opposite mine.
  • There is a truck parked in front of the house.
  • A car is parked in front of the house.

"In front of"

"In front of" is the antonym / opposite of "behind".
  • There was a flagpole in front of the building.
  • We were delayed by a slow heavy truck in front of us for about thirty minutes until we overtook it.
  • Although she sits in front of me, I don't know much about her.
  • He couldn't enjoy the movie since the couple in front of him kept talking loudly.
  • An old lady was standing in front of me in the queue.
  • Shy students always get nervous when they speak in front of the class.

"In the front of"

"In the front" is the antonym / opposite of "in the back".
  • My father and grandfather were sitting in the front of the car, while the rest of us were sitting in the back.
  • The new student sat in the front of the class. (in the front row)

"At the front of"

"At the front of" is the antonym / opposite of "at the back of".
  • There's a big advertisement board at the front of the building.
  • The car has a distinguished trademark at the front.
  • The boy is standing at the front of the queue.

Exercise

Fill in the blanks with "in front of", "opposite", "in the front of", or "at the front of".
  1. She was very surprised and stood there ... him for a moment.
  2. You will be able to find the office easily. There's a big billboard ... it.
  3. I can't see the writing on the board clearly. I think I'll sit ... the class.
  4. Walk along this street. The office is ... the museum.
  5. Watch out. The car ... us is swaying in and out carelessly.
  6. When traveling, my daughter prefers sitting ... the car.
  7. I enjoyed watching the sunset from the balcony ... my room.
  8. He lives in a big old house ... a vocational school.
  9. Who is the young girl sitting ... Anna? I've never seen her before.
  10. A police car was ... the convoy.
Click here to download the answer key.



Reference: Swan, M. Practical English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

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